A term that was used to describe multi year software implementation teams who now represented their client more than the software company they worked for.
It can also mean going from contract to working for a company.
What I want to address here is the former, when an employee represents the customers interests over their own employer.
As a leader this behavior can be observed in any role which works with customers over a long period of time i.e. account manager, project manager. The challenge is how to spot, call it out and then do something about it.
When an employee spends more time with their customer than the team they work in, they lose connection to the team and business, they are at risk of representing their customers needs over what makes sense to the business.
Here are the signs:
- The behavior shows up when the employee is continually driving their customers agenda at a cost to your company. It may be the request does not make commercial sense, only suits them and no other customer.
- Poor boundaries and expectation setting with the customer, as they believe their customer is right and the business needs to change even when commercially it does not make sense.
- Not taking the position of the employees company, behaving like they work for their customer.
- Not attending company team events or team get togethers
As a leader its important to jump on early and here are some of the options you have:
- Call it out with the individual with specific examples. Approach with seek to understand: Why do you believe this? Is this the interest of our business? Why is it? What would you do if this business was run on your investments? How would you feel?
- Move projects or accounts, to another opportunity. Recognize their great work and set them the next challenge. Anyone is susceptible to “going native” if they work on a account or project to long. One better get them to take a holiday between finishing and starting on the new customer or project.
- Plan for a eighteen month to two year changeover, make it clear no one is on a project or account for more than 2 years. This sets a framework of expectation, so no one feels like it a reflection of their ability. It is not, its a reflection of human nature and the bonds we build with people who we work closely with over a period of time.
Never approach the individual with judgement as in my career I have experienced this situation many times, what you need is understanding and a plan! When the employee is reassigned you will see the energy and commitment to the company, its incredible how quickly you can get them back on track. Never see going native as a sign a weakness. Its a sign of someone who cares deeply about what they do.
How to manage someone who has gone native!